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Is Brain Fog in Perimenopause Real? Everything You Need To Know As A Middle-Aged Woman

Don’t worry too much – around 60% of middle aged women experience loss of memory, and the good news is that there are in fact ways to help improve memory and stress.

Don’t worry too much – around 60% of middle aged women experience loss of memory, and the good news is that there are in fact ways to help improve memory and stress.

“Why did I come into this room?”

“Where are the car keys? I was just holding them.”

“Why have I opened the refrigerator door?”

Is this you?

If you are a Muslimah in your late 30s and beyond, and wondering “What’s wrong with me?”, know that you are not alone. Many sisters who have been blessed with crystal clear memory start noticing that they forget appointments, lose their train of thought when speaking, and struggle to find the right word.

60% of women in mid-life experience brain fog. This can lead to low self-esteem, lack of confidence, reduced productivity at work and sometimes avoiding social gatherings fearing embarrassment.

The good news is that there are simple measures that can help with memory and lift brain fog.

What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause is the transition into menopause (when a woman stops having periods). It can last for a few years.

Usually, the symptoms of perimenopause like period issues, mood changes, fatigue, brain fog, etc start after the age of 45. However, with our modern lifestyle, it’s not uncommon to see these changes much earlier, even in the 30s.

What Causes Brain Fog in Perimenopause?

Three main hormones decline in perimenopause – oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

All three are important to maintain healthy brain function.

Oestrogen helps make new brain cells and improves connections between neurons (nerve cells). The main fuel for brain cells is glucose. Oestrogen helps the cells take in the glucose and use it for energy. Lack of oestrogen results in a lack of brain energy – less focus, less clarity of thought, and reduced ability to perform complex tasks.

Progesterone is also involved in making new neurons, protecting them, and helping with energy pathways in the brain.

Testosterone increases blood supply to the brain, helps energy production, and makes the neurons strong and resilient.

A healthy lifestyle can compensate for these hormones and you will notice a tremendous improvement in your brain function by adopting a few simple measures.

Lifestyle Adjustments That Can Help Lift Brain Fog

Many women who come to me in my coaching practice find brain fog challenging. I have helped women in high-performing jobs find their confidence by helping them focus on a few targeted lifestyle changes. Loss of your train of thought and struggling to find the right word can wreck your self-worth.

Sleep

This is by far the most important thing that we need to focus on. Perimenopause is associated with insomnia (inability to sleep). Tossing and turning, ruminating thoughts, and waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat are all part and parcel of the hormonal changes of perimenopause.

Some tips to optimize sleep: 

  1. Have the same sleep-wake cycle on weekends and weekdays. This maintains the circadian rhythm and doesn’t confuse the body’s inbuilt clock.
  2. Keep all devices away at least three hours before bedtime.
  3. If you have racing thoughts, journal before bed and do a brain dump on paper. This helps you make sense of things and find solutions to problems.
  4. Keep your nightwear light and airy and the room cool.
  5. Make sure the room is dark.

There is wisdom in the saying “Early to bed and early to rise”. Read more here.

It is also from our sunnah to sleep after Isha.

Exercise

Exercise is a great tonic for the brain. Movement of the body releases the feel-good hormones – endorphins. It also releases BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) that helps make more neurons. 

Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to increase the volume of certain areas of the brain, like the hippocampus – responsible for memory, and the prefrontal cortex – responsible for cognition.

You don’t have to do anything fancy – simply walking can do the trick. It is recommended that you do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. But anything and everything helps. It has been seen that 6 months of regular exercise can produce these changes in brain volume. 

You will notice the difference in memory, learning, and focus in just a few days or weeks.

Nutrient-dense food

Many essential nutrients play a role in good brain health.

Avoid sugar and processed food, as they cause inflammation in the body, and also the nervous system.

  1. Eating cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and radishes can prevent memory loss in this age group.
  2. Green leafy vegetables and berries are protective for brain health. MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) is rich in these foods.

A good quality multivitamin?

It would be great to get all the essential vitamins and minerals from our diet. The fact is that our soils are depleted of minerals, lots of nutrients from food are lost in storage and transportation, and stress and toxins in our environment can deplete our stores of nutrients. 

A recent study showed that taking multivitamins may help prevent memory loss as we get older.

Stress reduction

Stress is part and parcel of our modern life. You may experience more anxiety in these years. Progesterone is our calming hormone. When progesterone goes down in perimenopause, we tend to worry more, find it difficult to sleep, and are unable to switch off.

Stress releases the hormone cortisol. When our brain perceives stress, it increases cortisol production at the expense of progesterone. Survival is more important than reproduction! That’s how our brain protects us.

Raised cortisol because of stress and low progesterone can become a vicious cycle. The hormonal imbalance can make brain fog worse. Also, worrying about your memory can make stress worse.

Relaxation and stress reduction are key to clear memory.

  1. Relaxation activities like walking in nature can help.
  2. Talk to a friend/family as this may help calm you.
  3. Mindfulness practices are great at cutting out the chaos and calming the mind.
  4. Journaling and a brain dump can help you focus and reduce stress.

Hydration

Our brain is made up of 75% water. A simple thing like keeping ourselves well-hydrated throughout the day can help with memory. 

Learn Something New

Challenging ourselves and going outside our comfort zones is something we shy away from. But remember, your brain needs a workout too!

How can you stimulate it? Do crossword puzzles, learn a new language, and start crocheting or knitting with complex patterns.

But one of the best brain-stimulating activities is to start memorizing the Quran.

You probably know that memorizing the Quran at an early age improves memory and children are able to excel in further studies as they are blessed with a sharp memory.

Listening, memorising, and reciting the Quran has been shown not only to improve memory but also to reduce stress levels, anxiety, and depression and help you sleep better.

Have you noticed that on the days exert yourself and recite more from the Quran, your tasks get done like clockwork and you are able to focus more?

It’s the barakah of the words of our Rabb.

Conclusion

Perimenopause is just a phase of our life. It can be an exciting time when we, as women, have fulfilled the responsibilities of raising our children, perhaps climbing up the career ladder, and it’s a time to focus on ourselves.

Sleep after Isha, get up early, spend time with the Quran, eat, drink, and move mindfully. 

You may find new avenues opening up for you with your newfound mental, physical, and spiritual empowerment.

Take action today and start your journey to a more fulfilled life.

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